2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Touring
2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Touring. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2012 Subaru Impreza

With the introduction of the all new 2012 Impreza, Subaru sincerely hopes that buyers shopping for a compact car will have no more excuses to not include the Subie on their list. Previously, the all-wheel-drive Impreza was more expensive and less economical than the mainstream offerings. Now, it seems, Subaru has brought it in line with its competitors, which is good news for those who want the security of all-wheel-drive in their entry-level ride.

I recently spent two weeks with a 2012 Impreza 2.0i Touring Package 4-door with CVT (continuously variable transmission), which carried an MSRP of $22,995.

2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Touring
2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Touring. Click image to enlarge

The base 2012 sedan with five-speed manual transmission starts at $19,995. This is certainly more than the door-crasher prices of most competitors you see splashed across the newspapers, but when factoring in the standard equipment level (a/c, keyless entry, tilt/telescope steering, 4-wheel discs, height adjustable driver’s seat, heated powered mirrors, cruise, a whack of electronic chassis aids) the playing field levels somewhat, although you’re still stuck with 15-inch steel wheels and no Bluetooth. The CVT costs $1,300. This also nets an all-wheel drive system that uses an electronically-controlled multi-plate transfer clutch system that splits power 60/40 front/rear but varies that depending on conditions. The manual-equipped cars use a more basic viscous-coupling limited-slip centre differential that splits power 50/50 front to rear at all times.

I suspect most buyers will pony up for the Touring Package that adds 16-inch alloys, 6-speaker audio, heated front seats, Bluetooth, USB, auto headlights, windshield wiper de-icer and paddle shifters for the CVT.

So what’s going to sway you towards the Impreza and away from the Mazda3s, Elantras and Corollas if we leave the class-exclusive symmetrical full-time AWD out of the equation?

2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Touring
2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Touring; photo by Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

Probably not its looks: it seems Subie doesn’t know what to do with the Impreza. The previous sedan (not so much the 5-door hatch) was an innocuous critter, and this one fares only slighter better, coming across as a mini Legacy. It lacks any real flair or originality, and that sentiment continues inside. The cabin is an improvement over the last effort, but still looks like a sea of black plastic to me.

In the plus ledger, the seats are comfortable, visibility is excellent, and a 45-mm wheelbase stretch garners a noticeable improvement in rear seat legroom. Thinner door panels improve hip and shoulder room, and the doors are longer with lower sills, making ingress and egress easier. Large side view mirrors are set back from the A-pillars so as not to obstruct vision when cornering. The trunk is huge and the 60/40 split rear seats fold flat, creating a large and usable load space.

Structurally, the Impreza feels solid as an anvil, and the doors close with a reassuring ‘thunk’. Indeed, the impression of Subaru’s legendary toughness is present and accounted for.

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